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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Growing Old With Jackson Browne

I posted this on on The Agonist back in July '09.

Stayed up late last Saturday night to catch Jackson Browne on PBS’s Soundstage program. Yeah…, I am getting to the age where anything past ten o’clock qualifies as a late nighter. It wasn’t just that, that was making me feel old. When I calculated it, I realized that it must be 25 years since I last saw Jackson Browne in concert. That was in Boise, Idaho…, a six or seven hour drive from where I called home at the time. I had an old partner who had just done a little time in Boise at one of Idaho’s finest facilites…, and a Jackson Browne concert was a damn good excuse to get down there to see how my old friend was doing. It was the last time I saw Jackson Browne…, or that old friend. I moved on…, the old partner went back. I tracked Jackson’s career moves much closer than I did that old buddy’s after that.

The first time I saw Jackson Browne in concert , about ten years prior to that Boise reunion concert…, was in Norfolk, Virginia. 1973. Courtesy, so to speak, of my “friends and neighbors” who selected me to serve my country. I can also thank the U.S. Army for choosing my assignment at Ft. Eustis instead of Vietnam. Jackson wasn’t the headliner in those days, he was the opening act for Neil Young and Crazy Horse. I didn’t even know who Jackson Browne was before that concert…, but I never forgot. That’s not to say that I appreciated just what a special talent as a singer-songwriter he was at that time. I packed a lot more years of living…, and almost dying…, into those ten years between Jackson Browne concerts than the time line would suggest. During one of the convalescent periods of a particularly close call…, I spent time reading “From Here To Eternity” and listening to “The Pretender”. If you are well acquainted with one or the other…, imagine experiencing them simultaneously.

“The Pretender" was an old album by that time. “Running on Empty” was out…, and I had about worn it out. So I pulled out the “The Pretender”.

“Though the years give way to uncertainty
And the fear of living for nothing strangles the will
There’s a part of me
it speaks to the heart of me
Though sometimes it’s hard to see
it’s never far from me
Alive in eternity
That nothing can kill.”

“The Fuse”

“No sooner had I hit the streets
When I met the fools that a young fool meets
All in search of truth and bound for glory
And listening to our own heart beats
We stood around the drum
Though it’s fainter now
The older I become
Living your life day after day
Soon all your plans and changes
Either fail or fade away
Leaving so much still left to say.”

“Daddy’s Tune”

“I’m going to find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we’ll fill in the missing colors
In each others paint by number dreams”

“The Pretender”

It took a few more years…, but I found that girl…, and she is still filling in those colors. Brighter every single day. When we were living in a cracker box camper trailer in a remote logging camp in Southeast Alaska, we bought “Lives in the Balance” on cassette tape. And I discovered that Jackson Browne had even more range that I ever imagined.

“I’ve been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you’ve seen it before
When a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war
And there’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars fought in the places
Where their business interests run”

“Lives in the Balance”

That was a good 10..., closer to 15 years…, back down the road now. So I was anxious and excited to hear what Jackson had to say last Saturday. Jackson doesn’t get much air play on FM radio…, unfortunately…, and I never made the conversion to CD’s when the vinyl records turned to warpped crap in the 80‘s. It took me three tries to get a playable copy of “Running on Empty”. I got lucky with “Hold Out”…, but threw up my hands in frustration with “Lawyers in Love”. So I have missed a lot of Jackson Brown since then. Yeah…, I’m getting old. And so is Jackson Browne. I was happy to see that he hasn’t dyed his hair. No pretender he. He still looks good. I wish I could say that he still sounds good. But nearly 30 years of chain saw screams and heavy equipment bellers have taken their toll. That’s why I don’t listen to new music today. I can’t hear it. It’s a jumble of words that I can’t filter. I need a magnifying glass to read the lyrics on a CD. The old music is still there though…, inside the ear. I can still hear it load and clear. So, I don’t know what new perspectives Jackson had to impart last Saturday night…, but when he closed the show with a song released in 1986..., “Lives in the Balance”…, I realized that his music and his message are ageless and timeless.

“There’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we can’t even say the names
They sell us the President the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us everything from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they’re never the ones to fight and to die”

“Lives in the Balance”

Scott R. July 18, 2009 - 3:30pm

1 comment:

  1. More recently I post comments to that Diary entry..., trying to Don's attention (link to his Blog at my profile).

    Hey Don...,

    I checked your "My Space" spot...,and see that Tom Russell wasn't among your many listed favorite singer-song writers. So I should have cc'ed you with this email to a friend in Idaho..., the subject was "Tom Russell".

    Hey Van,

    Hope all is well there in Idaho..., miss you and all the old friends there..., but sure don't miss the winters !!!!! Over 50 degrees here and if we had any snow at all this winter..., it wasn't enough to stick in my memory..., or on the ground.

    I wrote this one for The Agonist back in July..., about how I don't buy much, if any, new music these days.

    But someone posted a piece by this subject that I really liked..., so I read some other stuff on his Blog and liked it too..., so I finally order up a couple of his CD's. I got his new one, "Blood and Candle Smoke". A lot of it deals with his "born again" Christian faith..., but still really good. And this song is great.

    "American Rivers"

    I saw Red Iron Sunsets from a Rust-Iron Bridge
    In the Indian Countries of the Mockingbird Kid
    I saw the moon in a boxcar, carried as freight
    Through sixty-two winters and forty-eight states

    In an old Chinese Graveyard, I slept in the weeds
    When a song and a story were all a kid needs
    Yeah, the rhymes and the rattle of those runaway trains
    And the songs of the cowboys, and sound of the rain

    And it's mama I miss you, I woke up and screamed
    American rivers roll deep through my dreams

    Colorado, Allegheny
    Shenandoah, Sus-qua-hay-nee
    And the Wabash, the Hudson, the brave Rio Grande
    I was the kid there, asleep in the sand, near your Waters

    We named 'em for Indians, our guilt to forsake
    The Delaware, the Blackfoot, the Flathead, the Snake

    Now they roll past casinos and old hamburger stands
    They are waving farewell to the kid on the land

    With their jigsawed old arteries so clogged and defiled
    No open-heart miracle will turn 'em back wild
    Past towns gone to bankers; past fields gone to seed
    All cut up and carved out; so divided by greed

    And old grandfather Cat Fish with whiskers so long
    And his life in a struggle, 'cause the oxygen's gone
    Oh, mama I miss you, I woke up and I screamed
    The American rivers, they've poisoned my dreams...

    I also got "The Tom Russell Anthology". It's a two disc set of his older stuff..., from the 70's to today. He takes on topics from an ode to Gram Parsons in "Joshua Tree", to the demise of the steel industry in "Steele Town", to the Japanese internment during WW II in "Manzanar", to one of today's hot topics (illegal immigrants) in "Who's Going to Build Your Wall?". The guy's range in song writing is phenomenal..., maybe not his singing voice..., but even that ain't bad.

    Do yourself a favor and check him out..., and stay warm over there !!!!! :)


    Scott R. January 30, 2010 - 2:33pm